Northern Group Faults EFCC’s denial of Withdrawal of Charges Against Diezani, others


A northern youth group has faulted denial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), that it had dropped the criminal charges against Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources and four other persons.
The anti-graft agency had reacted swiftly to media reports that it had withdrawn a 14-count money laundering charge filed against the former Minister and four others at the Federal high court, Lagos.
She was charged alongside four others namely: Mr Dauda Lawal, former Executive Director of First Bank, Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, the former Executive Director of Sterling Bank, Lanre Adesanya and the former Group Executive Director of NNPC, Stanley Lawson.
But in a statement signed by Abba Yahaya, the group under the aegis of Northern Youths in Defence of Democracy and Justice (NYDDJ), described the denial by EFCC as “laughable.”
The group also rejected the claims by EFCC that it only split the charge to give room for fresh arraignment of the former Minister.
The statement reads in part: “We are aware that this case has lingered since 2016 when Mr. Lawal was first arrested and detained by the EFCC for allegedly facilitating the transfer of funds on behalf of the ex-minister, now at large, which he collected from Nnamdi Okonkwo, Managing Director of Fidelity Bank and handed over to Lanre Adesanya, former Executive Director, Sterling Bank through a normal banking operation.
“We are also aware that the funds were at all times handled in the normal course of banking operations and transferred within the two banks.  Although EFCC has filed a 14-count charge against the former Minister, Diezani Madueke and the four others since 2018, they are yet to be arraigned in court. 
“We recall that at the last sitting of the court and without any prompting from defence counsel, the EFCC, on its own, withdrew charges against all the principal accused persons and filed amended charges against only Mr. Lawal. 
“The details of the proceedings which held on November 5 leading to the withdrawal of the original charge against Diezani Madueke and four others and the filing of a four-count amended charge against Dauda Lawal is already a public knowledge by virtue of media reports last month.
“But we were shocked to read, last week, in the media, a rebuttal from the EFCC hours after fresh reports on the withdrawal of the charge against Diezani and others hit the public space, denying that at no time was the charge withdrawn against Diezani and other defendants in the case but that it merely took a prosecutorial decision to split the charge.
“Following the controversy trailing the present status of the case in question, we are constrained to issue this public statement as patriotic Nigerians committed to the Nigerian project, who believe that institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which are funded by taxpayers and are supposed to be answerable to Nigerian citizens, need to be transparent and honest about their actions.
“From our findings, we make bold to say that the rebuttal by the EFCC is a deliberate effort to distort the facts and mislead Nigerians as to the event that happened in open court and which was widely reported by several news media. 
“For instance, in the rebuttal, the EFCC laboured to explain that it never withdrew charges against all the accused persons but that it took a prosecutorial decision to split the charges. Whereas, the truth is that the EFCC withdrew the charge containing all the original names of the defendants and filed an amended charge retaining only the name of Dauda Lawal.
” It is elementary that you cannot file an amended charge in court without withdrawing the old charge. It is also elementary that as soon as the court is seized of the amended charge, the old charge becomes non-existent in the face of the law. If EFCC still claims that the charges against Diezani, Okonkwo, Lawson, Adesanya and Mr. Otti are still in place, we ask them to show us the charge sheet. 
“Again, in its statement, the EFCC claimed that its decision to withdraw against all the other co-accused and retain only Mr. Lawal on the amended charge sheet, was a prosecutorial decision taken in open court, following a spate of adjournments occasioned by non-appearance.”

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